the most advantages is that of the city of Omaha . . . The plat is most beautiful and attractive . . . Several gentlemen of capital and great influence are interested in this new city and a regular survey and platting of premises is now going on. Being so near Council Bluffs, the only town of any size in western Iowa, it has many advantages as the seat of government, and a vigorous effort is being made by those having influence in the right quarter to secure that object. A public square and a state house will be donated by the company for this purpose. If it succeeds Omaha will at once take rank as the first city in Nebraska, and if the roads come to Council Bluffs it will, whether it becomes the capital or not, assume an important position.
   We may well believe that these esthetic conceits would be much less obtruded in a contest for the choice of a site of a capital in the face of the more dominant commercial spirit of the present. But our beauty struck pioneers did not, after all, miss the main chance; for in the same article the Arrow significantly observes that, "in full view, and due east, is Council Bluffs City, the great and well known local point of the Iowa railroads."
   While this mouthpiece of Council Bluffs spoke wide of the fact -- for that place had not been fixed upon then as the objective of any railroad -- yet he did not speak without


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Drawing by Simons, from N. P. Dodge sketch book


No. 1 (near center), old home of Peter A. Sarpy; No. 2 (in foreground), Sarpy's new home; No. 3, Indian mission ; hill on extreme right, present site of Bellevue College.

his reckoning. He could with some safety discount the influences around him which, about two years later, diverted the Rock Island down the Mosquito to Council Bluffs from its intended route down Pigeon creek to a terminus at the rock-bottom crossing opposite Florence. And while this reason was not free from the hit-or-miss element and the influence of the wish over the thought, yet it foreshadowed a great economic fact. Here the railway was to precede occupancy and growth, and so, during an exceptionally long period of commercial and political dominance was to receive, if not to exact, from its creatures recognition and obeisance as the creator of the commonwealth.
   At the beginning Nebraska was a state without people, and it remained so, virtually, until their forerunners, the railroads, opened the way for and brought them. This phenomenon distinguishes the settlement of the trans-Missouri plains from that of the country eastward of them. There the railways followed the people. Here they preceded the people, and hither, as self-created immigration bureaus, they both persuaded and carried them. It was when the railways, having crossed Illinois and having been projected across Iowa, pointed



the way to the occupancy of the Plains that the people collected on the eastern bank of the Missouri river barrier and cast a wistful eye to the Nebraska Canaan.
   On these Plains, in their isolated state, the industrial arts were impracticable; there was only the soil capable of producing staple foods. Until the railways came to carry the staple products of the soil to the far eastern market, and to bring back in exchange all the other necessities of life, including, besides the indispensable fuel, the very tools and material for cultivating the soil, the erection of shelter for man and beast and for all other improvements, life could be endurable only along the Missouri river, and comfortable nowhere. So great was the extremity in this beginning of civilized utilization of these Plains that even statesmen, usually the most ubiquitous of all our animals, were wanting, necessitating the importation of members of Congress and even of the local legislature.
   The pleasantries and sarcasms of the mouthpieces of the two principal and rival towns lay bare, like searchlights, the extreme slenderness of the foundations on which the political beginning was to rest. The Arrow of October 13, 1854, referring to a reception at Bellevue prepared for Governor Burt on his arrival, says it was reported that there were fifteen persons present -- "all the citizens and some neighbors." The Palladium of the week before had a sarcastic account of the editor's visit to Omaha. He tells us that after landing from the steam ferry-boat:

   We expected the beauty of the location would manifest itself at first glance, and then the commanding features we had often read of in the Arrow, would at once claim our attention. But, instead of this we looked around wondering which way to go to find the city. We were at a loss at first to satisfy ourselves that it was actually spread out before us, and much more to identify the locality of its commanding point -- the focus of business.
   And then the outraged Arrow lets fly in this spirited fashion, and though we are thankful for the information about Omaha which is disclosed by the retort, we cannot but feel that it is relatively blunt:

    Focus of business indeed! Four months ago there was not a family upon this spot nor a house reared. Now there are two stores and some twenty houses, with a score more in progress. Query: Where is the "focus of business" at Belleview? When there has been one house reared upon the commanding site we shall not farther intrude so impertinent an inquiry. The city of Belleview is easily found, not a building nor a pile of material obstructs the vision.
   The same number of the Arrow announced that arrangements had been made

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Pioneer of Omaha, Nebraska

at Omaha for a reception to Governor Burt "in a style which would have done credit to many an older place." The committee of reception were Charles B. Smith, Alfred D. Jones, William R. Rogers, Robert B. Whitted, Michael Murphy, William Clancy, Samuel A. Lewis, Charles H. Downs, William N. Byers, and William Wright. The committee of arrangements were T. Allen, Charles B. Smith, David Lindley, Alexander Davis, and Charles H. Downs. "Both committees will continue in their respective stations until such time as the governor's health will justify their action." But the committees continued in their respective stations till, one by one, so far as is known,



with the single exception of Charles H. Downs, they have been summoned to follow the ruler they were to honor to the other shore where mayhap the long prepared reception has at last been held.
   Though Secretary Cuming, who, by the death of Governor Burt and the provision of the organic act, became acting governor, was to be architect of the organic beginning of Nebraska, yet in a deeper and broader sense the beginning had taken place



First chief justice of the supreme court of the territory of Nebraska

in the summer and fall of 1854, on the advent of the settlers who came filled with the anticipations and hopes, accustomed to the asperities, inured to the hardships, and conscious of the constructive responsibilities and duties of pioneer life. For fifty-one years after its acquisition the land these pioneers had come to possess had been an unorganized prairie wilderness. During all that time the geographers had described it as a part of the Great American Desert, unfit for agriculture -- of too arid a climate and too lean a soil to attract or sustain any considerable permanent civilized population.

    ORGANIZATION. There were neither laws nor political organization. The bare and ill-defined territorial boundary was the only finger-mark of civilization or sign of civilized control. Writer and reader are able to remember that the nearest railway was yet three hundred miles from our borders. Reliable estimates that property values, real and personal, are over three thousand million dollars in 1917 show the miracle wrought by these beginners whose creed has been faith and good works. And this enormous and almost incomprehensible sum vested in the farms, homes, manufactories, railroads, and other belongings of Nebraska has been accumulated almost wholly by the tillage of its fecund soil. The homely art of plowing and the faithful labor of planting, fused with domestic economy and good management by individual citizens, have populated, organized, and developed the resources of the ninety-three counties, caused all the beautiful homes, the fruitful orchards, the bountiful crops, the thriving plants of manufacture and the prosperous towns and cities to arise like exhalations upon the prairies. Then the most hopeful and prophetic hardly expected to see any acre of Nebraska land sold for agricultural purposes during his life for more than twenty-five dollars, or thought that improvement was practicable more than forty to sixty miles beyond our eastern border. Land in and of itself has no more exchangeable value than air and water; it depends for its value on human effort put forth upon it, or in relation to it. As lately as 1866 one could get agricultural college scrip for fifty to seventy cents an acre. The value of lands then expressed in cents must be now expressed in like numbers of dollars.
   I offered to sell to some parties in New York City twenty thousand acres of Otoe county land for twenty thousand dollars. The proposition was based upon an option



of twenty thousand acres of college scrip, belonging to the state of Maryland, which a friend had secured for me. Elated at the prospect of making forty cents an acre I went in great haste to the city of New York, and there for two weeks labored to impress upon the minds of possible purchasers my faith that the land would be worth five or ten dollars an acre in ten or fifteen years. But, while they listened to my descriptions of the soil, its possibilities in productiveness, and my forecasts of future values, not a man of the wealthy financiers with whom I labored, and all of them had idle money, would buy an acre. The scheme fell through because, in the judgment of the New Yorkers, we were too remote from means of transportation.6

   No railroad touched the east bank of the Missouri opposite Nebraska until 1867. Then the Northwestern reached Council Bluffs, and offered the farmers of this state their first rail connection with Chicago and the markets of the east. Those rails were laid in relation to Nebraska lands. The Rock Island and the Burlington soon followed, and, together with the Union Pacific and other railroad lines on the west bank of the Missouri, contributed to establish land values from the river to the foothills of the mountains.
   The acting governor of Nebraska, Thomas B. Cuming, ostensibly lived on the townsite of Omaha, but he really abode at Council Bluffs. The city of Omaha had a population not exceeding one hundred and fifty. It had no hotel, only a half dozen finished cabins, a few shanties, and a tavern in process of erection to be called the Douglas House; and neither man nor beast could yet find comfort there in the way of board and lodging. Of tawny autumnal color, the unbroken plains stretched from that hamlet to the Rocky mountains like a gigantic canvas awaiting only the touch of intelligent industry to make it glow with all the vivid shades and colorings of modern civilization. But precedent to all enterprise and development was required the establishment of order, civil organization, and law. The organic act provided for that. The United States had authorized the president to appoint for the territory a governor, a secretary, three district judges, a district attorney, and a marshal. President Franklin Pierce had named, and the Senate had confirmed, Francis Burt of South Carolina, governor; Thomas B. Cuming of Iowa, secretary; Experience Estabrook of Wisconsin, United States district attorney; Fenner Fer-



Associate justice of the first supreme court of the territory of Nebraska

guson of Michigan, chief justice; E. R. Harden of Georgia and James Bradley of Indiana, associate justices of the supreme court; and Mark W. Izard of Arkansas, United States marshal. Each of the judges of the supreme court was judge also of one of the three judicial districts.
   It will be seen that the carpet-bag system had full sway in that early day; and under it the unfortunate territories, during their existence as such, continued to be the eleemosynary asylum for superannuated or superfluous politicians. In considering the question as to who should succeed Governor

   6 Personal recollections of J. Sterling Morton.



Burt, the Omaha Arrow furnishes us at once a strong and discriminating characterization of the pioneers -- the more forceful and interesting because "written on the spot," and by one of them -- and an attack on the carpet-bag system:

   It is with heartfelt gratification that we witness the degree of patriotism and self-sacrifice manifested of late by persons throughout the territory desirous of serving the "dear people" in the capacity of your humble servant, in the small number of offices within the gift of an honest pioneer constituency. Cosily (sic) seated as we are in our prairie sanctum, we can watch the whole field with a degree of pleasure, an interest unappreciated by the aspiring patriots or, gentile (sic) termed, Nebraska state office seekers . . .
   We see around us and all over our territory needy aspirants for the forty representative offices within the gift of a constituency who have led the van in opening one of the loveliest countries the sun ever shone upon. We see persons anxious, eager, striving for the votes of a people upon whom the old fogy sobriquet of squatters has often been applied, yet a people as honest, as noble, as generous, as hospitable, as practically and theoretically democratic as any in this broad land of ours. They are our friends and we are emphatically theirs. They have come here, not as aspirants for political favors, or under outside pressure for patronage, but have come like us, to rear a home on the frontier, and freed from the anti-progressive customs of old states, act and feel as God in His wisdom intended man to act and feel.
   In selecting those, therefore, who are to represent and make laws, to govern and protect us, we want practical, honest men; we want men who are even above the suspicion of being influenced by motives of pecuniary interest; men who know the country and people whom they represent, who have been identified with their interests, who have worked and will continue to work for those interests . . . We are half inclined to believe that every battle riddled politician, every boaster of bold political deeds of days gone by, every ranting politician should be left to pursue any other avocation than to serve the "dear people," and plain, practical, progressive men be allowed to act for us in the legislative halls. Of all the creatures that roam this fair land of ours, whom we really most pity, and whom we hold in supreme contempt that species of greedy aspirants that always hurry to a new country to court public favor, without basing their claims upon the shadow of a right, stand in the superlative degree. We have no faith in their promises, no faith in their actions. They cannot pass the ordeal among Nebraska voters.
   But our editor, like all of them who perch upon the tripod of the "organ," is no fool to make a stumbling block of his consistency, and does not hesitate to mock that bauble jewel. On the same page with his settler of carpet-bagism he declares that the appointment of Izard from the alien Arkansas country "would meet with the hearty concurrence of the people," and he reënforces a puff of Secretary Cuming of the foreign state of Iowa for the same office, which he has clipped from an Iowa paper, with the assurance that "his many friends here would heartily rejoice at such a deserved promotion."
   And then in the next column our editor, giving full vent to his innate sentiment and fancy, answers the question at the head of his article, "Who will be appointed governor of Nebraska?" in this strain:

   This is a question of no little importance and one that we often hear asked.
   Although we were born and reared in the East and all our early associations are bound up in the hills, valleys, hemlock slopes and clay soils of the East, still we do not the less appreciate the energy, spirit, talent, usefulness, and real perceptiveness of the pioneers of the West. We love them because we know there is the real stuff in them that constitutes all that is excellent, noble, brave, exalted, and statesmanlike. We speak not of the mass, but of many of the choice spirits that compose that industrious and excellent class of society.
   They leave the quiet firesides of home, often strewed with the luxuries to which their lives will in future be strangers, to the occupation and use of those who are less able to make a name and fortune for themselves, or who are less ambitious to do a work that shall signalize them among those who are benefactors of their fellow creatures.
   They are those who retreat from the



pleasant haunts of youth, often sundering ties dearer than life to become an humble citizen of the great, the unbounded, the glorious West. Such heed not labor, toil, or privation, they are ever ready to meet the disappointment or success, and in this great school every day they receive a new lesson, and early become the true judges of human nature, the real philosophers of human phenomena. Such a class of men can never be oppressed or borne down with servility or tyranny in any form, and of such are and will be the most intelligent and exalted statesmen of this continent.
   For 20 years have we been on the trail of the frontiers-men; and for that time have we ever noticed that among the early settlers may be found the men who will dare anything and who are capable of everything. Such men, tho' as tame as a summer flower, and as submissive to right as is the ox to his owner; still no men are better judges of right than themselves. They know the country, the locality, the wants and necessities of the people in their rude manners and customs, and there are no other class of men more capable of making laws or governing a country.
   We have noticed with some degree of interest the seldom failing practice by the chief executives of our Nation, of appointing for the new territories men from countries far removed, that know little or nothing of the people over which they are to exercise a brief authority. Men whose tastes, habits, peculiarities, predilections, and views have been directed in a channel far different, and altho' they may be numbered among the best of men, they may be quite unfit for the position assigned them and unable to bear up physicially (sic) under the great changes they are forced to undergo.
   No, we assert it boldly and with a firm conviction of the correctness of our position. The Pioneers should for their Governor have a good, plain, practical, frontier man, One who is not afraid of the heat of summer or the frosts of winter, that can sup from a prairie dog, and still be a statesman. One whose talent and good sense is as discernible in the rude cabin as the princely mansion. One who knows the people over which he is placed, as well as their wants and necessities.
   Give us such a man for Governor and to such a one the people, the hardy pioneer, the energetic squatter, will subscribe with all their heart and soul. We look not at the outside; the roughest covering often hides the most brilliant gem, or the mine of wealth. Give us the men schooled in storms, or opposed by hurricanes of adversity. Such men are firm and unwavering in purpose and are worth a thousand band-box or silk stocking gentry.

   On the 18th of October the death of Governor Burt, at the mission house in Bellevue, was officially announced by Acting Governor Cuming. The proclamation of that death was the first executive act.7 Thus the beginning of the life of a state which is indestructible was the official announcement of the death of its principal citizen, who saw only possibilities where others of his time and generation are permitted to experience great realities.
   Acting Governor Cuming was thirty years of age, a swarthy, compactly built man, with a head and features that plainly bespoke power of will, sagacity, and courage.
   He was about five feet eight inches in height, and weighed perhaps one hundred and thirty pounds. His hair was dark and as straight as that of an Indian. His black eyes, flashing energy and determination, possessed also that charm which sturdy and intellectual training so largely contribute. He was a thoroughly educated man, a graduate of the University of Michigan, for entering which he had been carefully and rigorously prepared in Latin, Greek, and mathematics by his father, the Rev. Dr. Cuming, a distinguished clergyman of the Episcopal church in the Peninsular state. With a fine aptitude and versatility, Governor Cuming had entered journalism zealously for his life calling, and was, when appointed secretary, editing the Dispatch at Keokuk, Iowa.8 No executive of the territory or state perhaps has equaled him in ability; and no documents from the executive office have been couched in better English than those he put forth.
   Mr. Cuming's appointment as secretary of the territory was doubtless due to the potent influence of Iowa politicians added

   7 Laws of Nebraska, 1855-1857, p. 41.
   8 Personal recollections of J. Sterling Morton.

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